Client service opportunities

Cross selling is an important revenue source for accounting firms. The concept of cross selling is simple: convince existing clients to use a firm in more than one practice area. Cross selling can result in additional revenue and help client retention by:

  • Allowing an accountant to establish more points of contact within the client’s organisation.
  • Increasing the accountant’s knowledge of the client’s business and operations.
  • Demonstrating the accountant’s ability to assist with other business challenges.

Despite its advantages, many firms find it difficult to cross sell their services to clients. To be successful, firms need to understand cross selling impediments and what needs to be done to overcome them.

The selling block: Some professionals think selling as unprofessional. The problem with this argument is the belief that an accountant needs to “flog” the firm’s other services to clients. The trick is simply getting clients to talk about the difficulties they face and for accountants to listen for an opportunity to help. If a firm has a good relationship with its clients and they are happy with the existing service, there is a high probability that an accountant will be asked for details on the firm’s other capabilities.

Incentive: If there is no incentive to market a firm’s services, most professionals will simply avoid doing it. But if professionals know that cross-selling activities will be considered in their annual salary review, they will take an active part in the activity. While there are many ways firms can calculate this incentive, a professional’s cross-selling activity must be factored into their level of compensation.

Credit: For cross selling to succeed, the concept of sharing credit for new work must also be part of the program. Cross selling only happens when professionals work in pairs or teams and the shared effort receives recognition.

Recognition: If new business comes from an existing client, this achievement may not be mentioned in any internal newsletter, new business report or memo. The failure to recognise and celebrate this type of new business can hinder a cross-selling program. Recognition is a powerful motivator. A cross-selling success should be headline news in the firm’s internal newsletter or on the Intranet.

Client ownership: Some professionals shun cross selling because they are reluctant to introduce another individual from the firm into their well established client relationship. This mentality can ultimately lead to a competitor getting the client’s other work, which is something that is much worse than having another person in your own firm do the work. Clients must be viewed as assets that belong to the firm and therefore must be shared by all professionals.

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